LONDON: The assassination of Salmaan Taseer has exposed the extent of extremist thinking even amongst Pakistani expatriates in Britain.
Speaking to British Pakistanis living in an East London locality, The Express Tribune found many supporters of Taseer’s murderer while a few spoke up in favour of the rule of law.
“When a person kills someone he has killed all of humanity”, says Tabassum, a hijab wearing British-born Pakistani. “Yes, tawheen-e-risalat is a big issue but to just kill someone for a few words, that can’t be justice” says another British-born young woman.
Sadiq Akbar, an architect living in the same vicinity, berates the conservatism that has taken hold amongst many Pakistanis. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and some of us Muslims are ‘lakeer ka fakir’ who will kill for the slightest thing.”
Digging a little deeper, it becomes apparent that he lays much of the blame on Taseer himself. “These are sensitive issues and Salmaan Taseer should have used his words more carefully, or apologised,” he points out. “Also, we know that he drank alcohol and this confirms that he wasn’t a Muslim.”
Farzana Ali spent a lot of time watching local Muslim channels in the days following the murder. “The media played a large role in the response here in London,” she says. Local Muslim channels largely promoted the view that Salmaan Taseer was to blame for his own murder, she explains. “Lots of people here supported the killing,” she says. “They think in black and white terms but I say there is a middle way. We have no right to take another’s life.”
Men streaming out of the local mosque questioned on the issue saw no middle way. Khwaja Ahmed Ali, a car dealer originally from Lahore and living in Britain for the last 19 years, was one such person.“He deserved to be punished for what he said, what happened was right and good.” According to him, mere mention of a change in the blasphemy law deserves extra-judicial killing.
A crowd gathers outside the mosque and all the men agree that Taseer’s murder was justified. “No-one has the right to change Shariah law,” says another namazi. “We consider it a crime to even talk about it.”
“If he called it a ‘kala qanoon’ then it was right to kill him” says Allah Ditta, who has lived in this community for many years. “The government failed to take action so it became the duty of individuals to do so.”
Muslims of a liberal mindset are finding life increasingly difficult in these communities. “I’ve been living here for 14 years,” says Nusrat, mother of three. “I was amazed at the reaction I got last year during Ramazan when I was eating something while sitting in my car. What is going on?”
A Pakistani Christian who has lived here for some 20 years discovered his Muslim friends were not moderate. “They were overwhelmingly in favour of the murder,” he says, adding, “It was quite an eye-opener.”
Outside the mosque one lone voice is raised above all those baying for blood. “Shame on all of you!” says a white haired man in a skull cap. “Where does it say in the Quran that you can just kill someone?”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2011.